The fourth quarter is here, and we are all looking to sprint to the finish line of 2012.  

Gone are the mad political dollars that have littered the majority of the country. The focus now shifts to the high advertising demand, holiday seasons with Black Friday on the very near horizon.  

This time of the year, it becomes less about strategy and innovation and more about tactics and execution. So the plan has been worked; time to work the plan.

And as we close out 2012, good things are on the horizon.

For the first time in many years, 2013 holds actual upside and promise for print-driven media, particularly in the local and regional sales categories. Prognosticators are more bullish on print that they have been in some time (although it’s still seen as down). And with most company’s knee-deep in a divergent digital strategy, the opportunity for year-over-year growth is no longer hyperbole.

It is real. And it is necessary.

I am not here to debate the values of a digitally focused strategy, as there are too many of them, with various levels of success and failure. None more interesting than the enigma that has become the John Paton-led Journal Register Company.  

The once-shining light of hope for the print industry, JRC is challenged by its second foray in Chapter 11 in three years, and now many are questioning the effectiveness of a digital first approach. 

But the industry needs pioneers. It needs people to attempt change. And I still think Paton will make it work at JRC.

I heard this on a TV show recently: “Leaders lead from the front.”  A very appropriate comment that many in our industry should heed.

That being said, I want to discuss common things I am seeing across a number of media organisations that seem to be moving in the right direction. These things lead me to believe people see the true potential of digital in their markets, while maintaining strong belief in holding the line in the most monetisable print categories.  

Here are 10 things to make sure you have in your plans for 2013:

  1. Maximise selling time. I am seeing this across most organisations. The more diverse the mix of platforms being sold, the more time sales people lose from actually selling. Remove the obstacles. Create better work flow and fulfillment systems. And invest in resources. Just imagine the revenue lost if your sales people are losing an hour of sales time every day. Ouch!

  2. Multi-platform selling.  This is key to a successful sales model at all levels. You must grow beyond print and simple digital display options. Mobile, search, and video need to become part of your core offerings, and you must have a sales model that supports this.

  3. Digital services. A focused small and medium business (SMB) solution that can scale to businesses of all sizes. Differentiate yourself in the market and answer the needs of your advertisers. You can’t offer everyone everything, but you can offer more than you do now.

  4. Digital partnerships. You can’t do it all on your own. Develop partnerships with digital companies that improve your offerings and position in the market (i.e. Legacy.com, After College, Paper G, etc.)

  5. Extension products. Do not be constrained by the limitations of your owned and operated (O&O) inventory.  Sell audience and provide solutions. The inventory is out there.

  6. Preprint volume must be protected and maintained. From Sunday Select to other, various opt-in products, you must adapt your strategy to maximise volumes in markets.  And hold the line on rate. The major retailers know this is still their most effective driver of sales and traffic.

  7. Premium ad positions (print and digital). This may seem so simple, but there’s no better way to drive rate and results than to create and monetise new and different advertising options within your products. If you build it, they will come.

  8. Special section reduction. It’s time to really make the effort to get rid of the time-consuming, addictive, “unspecial” sections that consume sales time with no true revenue upside. Time is too valuable.  Use it more wisely. 

  9. New classified strategies. The legacy classified business is either gone or continuing to dry up. My suggestion: Remove the terminology from your vocabulary. Transition to vertically based sales, content, and product offerings. Focus on creating things consumers want, then create advertising opportunities to support them. Think beyond auto, real estate, and jobs, and start thinking about education, health care, entertainment, etc. And start thinking how you can use eBay, craigslist, and Pinterest to your advantage.

  10. Strategic rate increases. This has been a forgotten strategy in recent years, and we can no longer just increase prices without providing anything in return. But there are smart and creative ways to lever rates up where demand is high. I am telling you to pull those levers often.

Until next time…